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Arrests, Branch-Cutting Bid Ratchet Up Tension at Grove

Tuesday November 20, 2007

Campus police have escalated their campaign against the tree-sitters at UC Berkeley Memorial Stadium, making arrests Sunday and Monday in the protest that began nearly a year ago. 

The university also sent word to the Alameda County Superior Court judge that the university intends to cut branches at the stadium grove that are being used to help send supplies to the arboreal protesters. 

An attorney who is representing environmentalists struggling to save the threatened grove said that no decision should be made without a meeting of all parties in the action now pending before Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller. 

Zachary Running Wolf, who launched the protest last Dec. 9, was arrested for the eighth time at 4:07 p.m. Sunday, while another member of the protest’s ground support crew, Arthur Fonseca, was arrested four hours earlier and booked on suspicion of resisting arrest and violation of a court order. 

Running Wolf was charged with violation of a court order and resisting arrest and taken to Berkeley’s city jail to join Fonseca—who was also served with an order barring him from campus for the following seven days. 

Ayr, who has been instrumental in organizing ground support for the protest, was arrested early Monday afternoon. 

Both Ayr and Fonseca were arrested within minutes after they had helped provide the tree-sitters with food and supplies, said Doug Buckwald of Save the Oaks at the stadium. 

“Ayr went to International House to use the restroom, and he was seen by a police spotter. When he came out, a police cruiser had blocked the sidewalk and he was handcuffed and taken away,” Buckwald said. 

Running Wolf, an unsuccessful candidate for mayor last Novem-ber, had just been released Friday from the Alameda County jail at Santa Rita. 


Wozniak’s visit 

Berkeley City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak met at the grove Monday afternoon with campus police and Dan Mogul of, the university’s executive director of public affairs. 

Wozniak represents the council district closest to the site of the protest, and his constituents include the residents of Pano-ramic Hill who are fighting the project in court. 

“My visit was prompted by concerns of some of my constituents who wanted to keep the tree canopy intact along Pied-mont Way to implement the vision of Frederick Law Olm-sted,” Wozniak said. 

Considered the founder of American landscape architect and the designer of New York City’s Central Park, Olmsted designed the Piedmont Way streetscape, which is a City of Berkeley landmark. 

“Some of the branches they want to cut are pretty big, and it would have a major impact on the appearance of the streetscape,” Wozniak said, noting that some campus officials have been actively working to help restore Olmsted’s vision for the street. “I don’t see any particular way for a win/win situation at this point. It’s pretty much a stalemate right now.” 

Wozniak said the university apparently wants the judge to give them an option that would allow them to cut the branches, a point Mogulof confirmed Monday afternoon. 

The university official said that there will be no changes in the university’s handling of events at the grove “pending notification that the judge in Hayward (Miller) has arrived at a ruling,” Mogulof said. 

Given that the judge has promised 48 hours advance notice of her decision, no decision is likely before the week’s end, he added.  

Asked if the university intended to cut off supplies to the protesters, Mogulof said, “We have neither the physical pieces nor the personnel in place to hermetically seal off the area.” 

In the same letter announcing the plan to cut branches, Kelly L. Drumm of UC’s Office of General Counsel wrote to Judge Miller Friday, asking her to delay issuing her ruling until next week. 

“UC Berkeley Police Chief Victoria Harrison requests that the court not issue its decision before Nov. 26 ... to ensure the campus has adequate police staffing to respond to potential incidents resulting from a decision in this case,” Drumm wrote. “Chief Harrison and Chancellor Birgeneau believes (sic) that adequate officer staffing is necessary to ensure the safety of police officers and civilian security officers given recent events at the oak grove involving the tree sitters and their supporters.” 

Drumm cited last Wednesday’s tense confrontation between campus police and protesters as the deciding factor in the university’s decision to cut branches at the grove. 

Officers resorted to their batons after protesters set out to cut the dual fence lines erected to surround the grove. 

“The university intends to cut/trim the limbs/branches that compromise the security line and create safety risks to officers,” Drum wrote. “The proposed pruning would not compromise the health or integrity of the trees, which are outside the proposed footprint of the (gym) and are not covered by the injunction.” 


Dose of irony 

Michael Lozeau, the attorney who represents the Panoramic Hill Association in the multi-party lawsuit challenging the four-story mostly underground gym and office complex the university plans at the grove site, said Monday that he is somewhat bemused by the university’s fencing policies. 

“The university said it needed to build the fences to protect the tree-sitters from the 60,000 to 70,000 fans who attend” football games at the stadium. 

“But the season ended last week, so who is there to protect them from?” Lozeau mused. 

Noting that the university had gone to court to win an injunction barring support for the tree-sitters, Lozeau wondered why the university had erected the fence to safeguard those same tree-sitters. 

“That certainly seems like support,” he quipped. 

“We never said it was just about protecting them,” said Mogulof. 

On a more serious note, Lozeau said he wondered if the university planned to tear down the fence if construction is allowed to proceed, given its assurances to the court that it would do nothing that advanced the gym project until Miller had ruled. 

Among the issues Judge Miller is being asked to decide is whether or not the university followed the steps mandated in the California Environmental Quality Act before UC’s Board of Regents approved construction of the gym project and the environmental review that encompassed it and other projects dubbed the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects.